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Posts Tagged ‘Training’

I learned a hard lesson this past weekend at a NADAC trial. I thought the Labrador was done with visiting folks. I thought we’d over come that, but it was cropping up more and more in practice. She would bounce over to visit the instructor and I’d call her, usually more than once. She always came back to me, but not always on the first call. And I let this continue. I’m sure you see where this is going.

In practice if she blew a contact I made her go back. We train two on two off. In the trial setting as long as she got one paw in the contact zone I didn’t care. We kept going. We were qualifying! It was new and exciting! We earned titles! And then there was this last trial.

Friday we entered two classes — Touch N Go and Open Tunnelers. We rocked. We were together and a team and she ran a fantastic 5.85 yards per second! Nothing could stop us! Two first place Q’s!

And then Saturday things started to fall apart. We started the day with a beautiful Chances run. She got the distance. We were flowing and graceful and then she leapt off the dog walk. The photographer even got a wonderful sequences of photos of this. Isn’t that the memory you just want to keep? Actually…just maybe it is.

Our next few courses were all over the place. Some almost good, but not good enough. Our teamwork was off. Something wasn’t clicking.

Then Sunday it all fell apart. Or at least that’s how it felt. Our Regular run I felt like I had an untrained dog. She was all over the place. She went to say hi to the photographer. She ignored my recall. She acted like she had no idea what contacts were. And lucky for me I have wonderful friends. It was all my fault. As the judge said in the briefing, “Everything out there that happens right is your dog. Everything that goes wrong, is your fault.”

But instead of blame, they reminded me things that I’d been told before, but let slide. Things I’d ignored to my out detriment. The next course she left me. I called her. Once. She didn’t come so I walked over to and without a word took her by the scruff, signaling for my leash. I leashed her up, walked her to her crate and put her up without a word. Then I walked away.

The next course she stayed with me, but blew a contact. I called her back and put her back on the contact and then praised profusely. Then we finished the course. Not a Q, but second place and only a 10 point fault.

What I had trained — what I had allowed was exactly what I was getting. It was time to remember my criteria, hold the line and take my ego out of it. When I called her to come, she must come or the game ends. This isn’t just a because I say so, but it in the end is a safety issue. If there is someone across the street she wants to see, but a car is coming, she must return to me if I tell her to. A contact must be a two on two off. This is the criteria I have trained. This is the standard I must hold her to even if it means we NQ a few courses as I insist upon this. That is one thing I love about NADAC is the ability to train in the ring. So, take my ego which wants us to win NOW out of it, strengthen the criteria so that in the future she knows this is the way to play the game she loves, and how to keep playing.

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This weekend the Labrador (who turned 3 this month) earned her Rally Excellent title!

This weekend we traveled to a huge 6 day Cluster show! We only competed for two of those days, but the main point was to expose both the Labrador and me to something close to what we’ll be facing at the RNC. Normally we compete only locally at two ring trials of just obedience and rally. This Cluster had 15 rings all going at once! Confirmation, Obedience and Rally were going on all around us. Grooming was happening inside the same building near the rings and I had no idea how loud those dryers got! It was more commotion and noise, dogs and people than we’d ever had to deal with before.

Our main goals for this were:

  1. Expose ourselves to the crazy atmosphere
  2. Try a new feeding schedule for competing
  3. See how we handled competing twice in one day

I have to say I think I was more affected by the noise, commotion and stress than she was. I was more nervous than I’d been before. Though I’m always nervous I’ve never gotten quite so dry mouthed before. We arrived the day before and set up our crate, and since some confirmation judging was still going on as well as grooming and such we went into the building and played a little, letting us both adjust to the noise while we heeled and practiced a few Rally maneuvers.

The Labrador got her breakfast on Friday as normal, but then Friday night only got half rations. We’ve had issues with her eliminating in the ring and wanted to prevent this while making sure she still had the energy to get through the day. Saturday morning we arrived at the show grounds early and went for a walk, making sure she got all her morning business done well before we had to be in the ring! We showed Saturday morning, qualifying with a 97! It should have been a 100, but I had this minor moment of forgetting left and right and had to redo a sign!

After everyone was done (friends were also competing), I got a light lunch and we went back to our room to rest. We headed back to the show grounds around 4:00 expecting the next trial to begin around 4:00 or 5:00. It was scheduled to begin a half hour after the end of the previous show, but other issues caused it to be delayed even longer and we didn’t finish with our class until 11:30 pm! We qualified with a 77, which while not great, I’m satisfied with based on how long the day was, the strange environment and being so late! While the trial still had two more classes to go, we left and went back to our room where the Labrador again got half rations (and then fell asleep even before I was in bed!). I’m also pleased because the last time we tried to show twice in one day it didn’t go well. The second time in the ring the Labrador left me, said hi to the judges, and ring stewards and nothing I did could reclaim her attention. We were excused, and I wondered if perhaps showing twice in one day was going to be too much for her. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Perhaps it was maturity, or training or just that day she wanted to make new friends. But now I know we can como

The next morning we didn’t go over quite as early, but still gave ourselves plenty of time before our earliest possible start time. A nice walk made sure the call of nature was answered, and a wonderfully organized club not only had the Rally course set up early, but the efficient and friendly judge got us done earlier than Saturday. Again we qualified, this time with a 85! It should have been a 95, but I screwed up a sign and decided not to retry it. I think we were both a bit worn out and frazzled and I wasn’t sure I’d get her attention back enough to complete it properly (it was the last sign!).

Our biggest concerns were eliminating in the ring (we have a plan!), handing the leash to the stewart (no problems!) and though we’d trained I still dreaded getting an offset figure eight. We didn’t have a single one! I still am expecting one for the RNC. And our Sit/Stay was excellent.

We had a few attention issues that we need to work on, though I suspect there are due more to my nerves than anything. While warming up I tried a combination of having treats on me (security blanket) and not having treats on me. It made very little difference outside the ring. She was awesome! But the moment we’d approach the ring, I would tense. My throat got dry. I’m certain the way I said sit outside the ring verse how I said it inside was different. I need to work on this.

All in all it was a great weekend!

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This week was Spring Break! That means things like Monday was 66 degrees and Wednesday didn’t get above 28. Today was 65, and by Monday they are calling for snow. Spring also means mud.wpid-isight-2014-03-15-21-161.png

Would you believe that’s the Golden? He really, really enjoyed his mud bath….. His water bath after….not so much:

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See? He’s NOT amused!

With the RNC coming up I took this week off to train. And we trained just about every day. Mostly outside. Looking back on the week I have a few ideas for next time. First, I think I need to spend as much time thinking about my training as actual training. I need a better plan. I need to consider how we’re doing and what we need to work on. A list would be helpful. In relationship to that, I need to be keeping better notes. In the beginning I was posting here every week, and I was keeping notes at the end of every day. I’ve started to slack off. I’ve waited several days and then tried to make notes on how training went, or events that happened and find that my memory just isn’t that good any more!

All that said, it’s been a fun week. We trained with friends. The Labrador and I worked on heeling around distractions, including toys and food bowls with the expectation that there will be a food bowl at the National. We’ve worked on the broad jump. We’ve worked our ring entrance, and handing off the leash to the stewart without the Labrador going over to say hi. We’ve worked on retrieving bumpers for fun. We’ve even played some agility.

The Golden is working on sit to greet, stand for exam, and heeling. He finished his Foundation Skills for Agility by winning the “Get Out” competition! (Upholding the family honor as the Labrador did the same thing when she took the class.) He’s started jumping, and rocks his tunnels! We’re working crosses, and I’m getting better with my footwork on front crosses, hoping that will translate over to running the Labrador as well, though she didn’t often give me chances to do front crosses! She’s a rear cross type of runner (in other words, mom’s just too damn slow to keep up!). We’ve started working on 2 on 2 off contacts, and these are things I need to put on that list I mentioned above. A list to keep with me to remind me when I’m out at the park that these are the things to work on!

The RNC is coming fast. And I have trail this coming weekend — a good chance to try out some of the things I plan to do at the RNC. So goals this week are to keep training. To work on focus, and attention. I need to read the rules at least one more time and study the signs. We need to practice our downs while heeling, and stands while heeling. We will keep working on our fronts, and of course, keep working on our heeling!

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Played

She played me. The Labradork has been playing me. I am a sucker. For three years we’ve worked spin. Some days were better than others (faster, tighter spins). But then there were the days the command didn’t seem enough and I’d have to get a hand signal as well. Those days the spin was half hearted, slow, and not very tight, and I would just cheer her on, encourage her, or sometimes bring the treat out to lure her into a better spin.

Because of course the problem had to be my training right? If she wasn’t doing it correct, even after all that time, I must not have trained it right. She must not understand. So I’d take a few steps back. I’d work it again. Bring out the treat (read bribe). And then one day something inside me questioned. She’s almost three years old. This is a simple behavior. Could I seriously be that bad of a trainer that she really didn’t understand what I was asking? That had been my assumption. It had to be me. And it was, just not like I thought.

The other night I filled up her food bowl with dinner. I held it in my hand and without a signal said, “Spin.” It was like a fan had turned on as she whipped around in tight circle almost nose to tail. This sweet, innocent little Labradork had been playing me! She’d figured out the least amount of effort she could put into this behavior and still get the treat! Why put in effort if mom will just bring out the treat and lead me around by the nose and then still give me the treat? Mom’s a sucker!

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Today I received my entry confirmation for the 2014 AKC Rally National Championship.

I don’t recall when we realized we qualified. Or when I realized it was going to be on this coast, and only a few hours drive from me. I do recall my immediate determination to submit my entry! I’d gone from a woman who knew nothing about dog sports to a woman who’d qualified for the first ever AKC Rally National Championship! We’d qualified! I knew there were limits on the number of entries that would accepted out of those that qualified, but I had no doubt I would send it in. A friend asked what was my strategy to make sure I got in and I told her, overnight it and hope! We were both certain that everyone would overnight their entries and it would fill up that first day. We were determined to get ours in!

But then time passed. And I started getting nervous. I started having doubts. Yes we qualified, but…. Fears, doubts, excuses started slipping in. We qualified at small shows, and this was going to be a great, big National! We didn’t qualify with all scores 95 and above. Surely those who belonged at the National qualified with all 100s. Those would be the ones to overnight their entries and get in. So many doubts swirling in my head.

And then the day that entries opened came closer. I made the decision to just snail mail my entry. The explanation I told myself was that I couldn’t afford the cost to overnight it. Nonsense. I was letting my fear win. Letting my doubt win. I put it in the mail and told myself that if we made it, fine, and if we didn’t that was fine too. I even worked out a plan to go and watch, already assuming we wouldn’t get in.

Shows what I know! It didn’t fill up the first day. And my entry did make it and we are entered. So, now that even in spite of my own attempts to sabotage myself we are in, I have a new plan.

Step One: Remind myself daily that we QUALIFIED just like everyone else who will be there.

Step Two: Train. Practice. Improve on our weaknesses, and build on our strengths. Visualize success!

Step Three: Breathe.

Step Four: HAVE FUN!

And of course — most important HUG THE LABRADORK!

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I couldn’t have done this without her. She is my best friend, my partner and the sweetest dog I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my life with.

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Family Photo!

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This week there has been a lot of training. And yet it still never feels like enough! Before the Golden was born, the Breeder had a Puppy Shower. It was a lot of fun, and there were gifts for the attendees as well. One of those gifts was a little journal/notebook. This book has an entry for every day of the Golden’s life since he came to live with me. It’s what I refer to before doing a blog post to refresh my mind of everything we’ve done during the week. I noticed tonight as I was reviewing it that I’m running out of pages. I’ll need to buy a new journal soon. My little boy is growing up!

This week we’ve added a lot of things to our training list. I really need to make a list of all things we’re working on — mostly so I don’t forget to train something! We’ve started working on switches, and around (sending him around an object), as well as holding the dowel rod while moving (which really did not go well tonight!). I’d forgotten what a distraction leaves in the wind are. The Golden is happily reminding me. We are still working sits, and downs and stands, also finding stationary heel. Rear end awareness is going well, and “face me” on the stool was awesome tonight. Usually I move only one direction at a time. I’ll work clockwise for a bit, then break, and come back and work counter clockwise, but tonight he went too far one direction and adjusted himself, moving back the other way, so I built on that taking steps one way, and then the other. He was fantastic.

We traveled to a new location this week for a new class. We are taking a Games and Tricks class, which is a lot of fun. Most of the Labrador’s classes were at this location, but it was the first time there for the puppy. I was very pleased with his focus and concentration and willingness to tug! That’s another thing we’ve been working on tugging and playing in different places.

And yes this does mean I’m currently doing classes four days a week. Tuesday we have Performance Puppy with the Golden, Wednesday is Novice and Open with the Labrador, Thursday is now Games and Tricks with both the Labrador and Golden, and Sunday is Weave Poles and Agility. And we are already starting to work out what we want to be doing in January. Goals for this coming year are the Golden’s Rally Debut. Perhaps this will be at the Golden Retriever National, since it is close to where I live this year (and I’ve been told by the breeder I must go!). For the Labrador I think we’re going to work on training Open (and Utility), but compete in Rally Excellent. I don’t think we’ll have things trained and ready to start in Open this year (but maybe we’ll surprise ourselves!). And of course we’ll compete in agility. I already have plans for March and April (though I need to remember to check the March dates and make sure they don’t conflict with the Rally National).

Oh! One more thing to mention in what’s turning out to be a very rambling post. Tomorrow is the Golden’s first appointment for the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, which is “a groundbreaking effort to learn how to prevent cancer and other diseases. It is the largest and longest observational study ever undertaken to improve the health of dogs.” I am excited to participate.

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On Monday, October 21 the Golden turned 6 months old!

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Isn’t he just the cutest? The other night we were in a parking lot where we ran into his Breeder, and a half sibling. The Puppy did an awesome loose leash walk over to see them. I was so proud of him. We’ve been doing more visiting of new places, working on loose leash walking some, and it’s finally starting to pay off! Gotta keep it up though as we didn’t do so well at the last Festival we attended. Too big a crowd. Too many dogs. Too much STUFF! We’ll get there though!

The old issues that are cropping back up are my issues. I still want to believe that training a dog is like simple math. A + B will always lead to C. The problem is it’s more like Algebra, where you often have to solve for X. X is what works for your dog at that moment, and often that’s a matter of trial and error to find. The reason this little issue is raising it’s head is we are taking classes with a new trainer, and her methods are different from my last trainer’s methods. Of course this is to be expected, and part of the reason I’m going to a new trainer, but my brain is screaming at the conflicting information. I’m having to try to evaluate the information based upon my understanding of myself and my dog. I also have to balance it with the natural tendency to want my trainers to be an expert. I think it’s like doctors — we want to believe they know best. After all they are trained for this! And then there is my natural tendency to assume others know more than me. I’ve only been training for two years. I’ve only just started training one dog. What do I know? I want to want to believe my trainer knows “the right way,” but she only sees my puppy once a week for an hour. I see him every day. I work and play and train with him every day. I have to decide first what I want, and then what works best for my dog. Now that’s not to say everything this new trainer is teaching is causing this reaction, in fact I’ve gotten some very good ideas from this trainer, and Mr. Puppy has started working on a beautiful hold. There are just somethings I need to think though, consider and work through making decisions on how I feel the best way for Puppy and I to reach our goals.

I’m sure I’ll have a lot more of these moments as I continue to learn and grow. I suppose I should look at them as good moments to have. It means I’m learning new things. It means I’m aware that I don’t have to try every method I read or am told about. It means I’m learning to train my dog in a manner that works for him. Maybe one day it won’t make my brain short circuit first!

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